Now is the time for a bold decision on Oglet Shore and Liverpool Airport

Liverpool needs to face up to hard decisions about its future. One decision must be made about how we travel to, from and within our City. It’s a good time to be reviewing Peel’s desires to expand the Liverpool Airport

The Liverpool Echo ran a story recently about the likelihood of Liverpool Airport expanding in light of the zoning within the Liverpool Plan for the Oglet Shore being made available for export expansion. I believe that such a decision would not only be wrong but extremely unlikely. It is, however, good to have a discussion about this issue at this point in time.

 A discussion about the likely expansion of Liverpool Airport is just one of the discussions that Liverpool Council is ducking at the moment. They have totally failed to understand that three things have made a huge difference to the way that individuals and businesses will do things. Some of those are ephemeral and will disappear. Others will stay for ever as we think through a new reality for our City and our Country in the light of three key factors:

1.           Brexit has made travel to continental Europe, and further, more expensive and bureaucratic. The days of popping on to a plan and off again at the other end are now behind us. We will need to apply for a sort of European wide travel visa. We will need to take out more health insurance in the light of our health care rights being taken away by our decision to leave the EU. At either end, within Europe, there will be much more stringent checks on our passports and our visas over and above what used to be the perfunctory checks on our travel documents.

2.           Covid has changed people’s desire to travel through packed airports and into crowded planes in the way that we once did. I talk to many people who are now saying that instead of going abroad regularly they might go just once a year. People like being at the other end, usually in the sun, but now they think, “why do we submit ourselves to the indignities and time spent at airports as we shuffle from queue to queue for security checks with our belts and shoes off only to pay exorbitant prices at bars and restaurants as we wait for our plane?”

3.           The environmental crisis, as shown at COP 26 means that the Government has started to limit flight expansion. Air travel is a major polluter not just near the airports but throughout the atmosphere as an eco-system. If the Government is to secure its own targets for air quality and CO2 emissions, it cannot do this without looking at all means of travel including air travel. Many citizens are also considering the way in which they travel and where they travel to minimise their own environmental damage.

We now need to recognise these facts and ensure that Oglet Shore and that whole area can make a valuable contribution to the environmental aims of both Liverpool and Halton councils. Irrespective of the land zoning in the local plan the councils can take effective action now to ensure the development of a rewilded ecological area which will encourage a diversity of wildlife and provide recreational activities for our residents.

Such usage will not prevent the airport functioning at the level that it was pre-covid. Liverpool will never be a long-haul airport. That will always be role of Manchester. Long haul airports need a much bigger catchment area to get enough people into those long-haul flights, Manchester fits the bill. Liverpool doesn’t. The time when Liverpool could have expanded to a global as distinct to a (largely) European destination airport came to an end with the development of Manchester’s second runway.

You and I will still have the opportunity to travel around Europe if we choose to with a wide selection of destinations to our favourite holiday haunts. Nothing that is suggested here that currently takes place will be affected by a decision to zone theOglet land for ecological uses.

So, you might argue why, if there is no realistic chance of the airport expanding, should we do anything? The answer is twofold.

  • No decision means that the future of the land will continue to be in doubt. This means that no other option, ecological or otherwise can be taken forward.
  • I just don’t trust Peel Holdings, the owners of the Airport. Already they have had to come to gullible politicians at Regional and City level for loans and bailouts in one form or another. Their primary interest is not airports or homes but making money from land. This company, as Peter Kilfoyle has regularly exposed as a 500 company inter-connecting giant run from the Isle of Man with offshoots in many other tax advantageous areas. I strongly suspect that Peel already know that the game is up for airport expansion but have other ideas in mind for this land and want to stay in the game.

This is a discussion that must be had in Liverpool, the UK and globally. We can play our part for the environment by ensuring that this piece of old Liverpool shoreline can contribute to creating a sound environment and so improve our physical and mental wellbeing for generations to come.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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